High heels

Heads Up, Ladies: Health Risks of Wearing High Heels


High-heeled footwear comes in many forms such as pumps, stilettos (with long and thin heels), and high-heeled sandals. Wearing footwear with high heels has been a fashion statement for ladies worldwide for decades. In fact, some offices, stores, and universities even require females to wear high heels as part of their uniform.

Statistics show that 72% of women wear high heels, with almost half of that population comprised of women aged 18 to 24 years old. Generally, 77% of women wear high heels during special occasions, 50% at dinners and parties, 33% for dancing, and 31% wear them to work.

Ill-fitting high heels can be really uncomfortable for the one who’s wearing it. Pain and discomfort, however, aren’t the only health problems that you should concern yourself with regarding high heels.

How High Heels Affect Your Body

Your body’s ergonomics is naturally well-coordinated and balanced when you are standing erect with your feet flat on the ground. Your spine has a natural curve, your calf muscles and tendons are relaxed, and your body weight is evenly distributed on the soles of your feet.

Contrary to popular belief, your spine is not straight when you are wearing high heels. Your lower back is being pushed forward, affecting the alignment of your hips and spine. This can lead to pain in your lower back.

High heels also increase the pressure on your forefoot. To maintain your balance and center of gravity, your body compensates by making your lower body lean forward while the upper body leans back.

Your knees and the balls of your feet receive more stress and pressure from your upper body when you are wearing high heels. The higher the heels, the higher the pressure. Prolonged use of high heels also weakens the muscles in your ankles, making you at risk of balance problems. The pressure exerted on your foot can also result in foot pain, foot discomfort, and calluses.

Health-Related Issues of Wearing High Heels

The number of women who suffered from injuries due to wearing high heels in the United States doubled from 2002 to 2012. Here are some health-related problems that are being attributed to chronic use of high heels:

  • Sprain and strain. The most common injuries related to high heels are foot and ankle sprain and strain. This is attributable to the weakening of the muscles in your ankles.

  • Osteoarthritis. The risk of having knee osteoarthritis also increases with high heel use combined with weight gain.

  • Shorter calf muscles. Too much stress and tension on the calf muscles can shorten the muscle fibers.

  • Ingrown toenails. This happens because the toes are being compressed, most especially when wearing pointy shoes.

  • Plantar fasciitis. Chronic wearing of high heels might result in a weaker foot arch. This makes your foot ineffective in supporting your weight and absorbing impact resulting in heel pain.

High Heel Recommended Solutions

If you are the kind of person whose high heels are already a major part of everyday life, either due to your own choice or because you are obliged to, here are some tips on how you can mitigate the health risks mentioned in this article:

  • Perform exercises that can strengthen your ankles such as heel walking and heel raises.

  • Choose insoles for heels that are comfortable, provide adequate cushioning, and can keep your feet from slipping.

  • Stretch the muscles of your legs before and after putting your high heels on.

  • Try to reduce the frequency of wearing high heels and opt for flat but well-cushioned footwear if the situation allows.

  • Wear heels that are no higher than two inches. Avoid wearing shoes with pointy toes.

  • Avoid wearing high heels for periods. If you are sitting at your desk, you can remove your high heels and change into a flat footwear instead. You can just put them back on later.

  • Relax your feet when you get home by soaking them in warm water.

High heels have always been the trademark of fashionable women for years. Although what you wear can boost your self-confidence, the health-related consequences of wearing high heels must not be taken for granted.